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Crawfish Cannelloni

In the part of the crawfish season when the big fresh Louisiana crawfish are available, this is a very rich appetizer that takes advantage of the big flavors. You get them when you make make a stock from the crawfish shells and use it to enrich the French-style sauce (yes, they do eat crawfish in France, where they call it “sauce Nantua.”) Cannelloni, of course, comes from rolling sheets of pasta with various stuffings inside and napping a sauce over it all.)

Crawfish cannelloni.

  • 15 pasta sheets, about four inches square, or big pasta tubes
  • 1 1/2 pints whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 1 lb. crawfish tails
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 Tbs. fresh chopped basil
  • 3 oz. shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/2 cup reduced crawfish stock (see below)
  • For crawfish stock:
  • 24-36 crawfish shells, tail meat removed for use in main recipe above
  • 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 rib celery, chopped coarsely
  • 1 Tbs. dried tarragon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

1. Boil the pasta sheets in salted water until cooked al dente. Drain and set aside.

2. In an oversize saucepan, bring the whipping cream to a light boil and reduce by about a third. Be careful it doesn’t foam over.

3. Pour about half of the reduced cream into a skillet. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, and crawfish tails. Simmer over low heat while agitating the pan until contents are well combined.

4. Add the basil and the shredded mozzarella and stir very lightly until the cheese begins to melt. Remove from the heat.

5. Into the remaining cream, add the Parmesan cheese, white pepper, and reduced crawfish stock for the sauce. Whisk until blended and smooth.

6. Spoon the crawfish mixture onto the pasta sheets. Roll them into tubes about an inch and a half in diameter. Place the tubes with the seam side down on
ovenproof dishes. Spoon about two tablespoons of sauce over each individual cannelloni.

7. Bake the cannelloni in a 350-degree oven until the sauce begins to bubble, but not so long that the pasta browns. Serve very hot.

To make the stock, hammer the crawfish shells with a meat mallet until all the shells are broken. Cover with cold water in a large saucepan. Bring the pot to a minimal boil–just a few little bubbles coming up. Simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Strain the stock and discard the solids. Rinse the pot and return the liquids to the pan. Over the same slow simmer as before, reduce the stock by half to two-thirds. Freeze any leftover stock.

Makes about 12-15 cannelloni–12 appetizers or 6 main courses.